EA Sports PGA Tour PS5 1

It's been seven long years since a golf game had the EA Sports logo on the box. Dominating the genre since 1990, the publisher took a step back after Rory McIlroy PGA Tour in 2015, letting 2K Sports shoulder its way to the front of the pack. Now, the licence switches hands again on PS5 with the simply named EA Sports PGA Tour, boasting a bunker full of content and some shiny new presentation.

The visuals took centre stage in our hands-off preview, with producers citing advances made in the Frostbite engine as one of the key factors behind the series' return. The footage we saw certainly looked good enough to warrant a current-gen only resurrection.

It features Lidar-mapped, painstakingly recreated courses from around the world, rendered to the last shrub. Old favourites like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach shine alongside new additions like the 3-par only Top of the Rock. A large roster of pro players is promised (though the full number hasn't been confirmed), and the models look markedly better than the stiff-looking representations in the last instalment. With its rival currently lacking the atmosphere to do fans of the sport justice, EA really has a chance to get back on top.

Realistic grass and crisp-looking polo shirts aside, it wouldn't be a golf game if you couldn't whack the ball at the green. The new title brings with it a new shot mechanic in Pure Strike, which attempts to bring strategy and variation to the gameplay. There are 20 different shot types that vary per club, making for around 1300 shot possibilities. It's certainly a big step up from the standard handful of choices players are used to.

Ball physics (a phrase that's always fun to type and to say) have been given the same attention to detail as EA's other sports titles. Leveraging Trackman and Shotlnk data, the result of your swing aims to be as unique and unpredictable as the real thing.

Our demonstration was a single par 5 hole on Augusta — not a lot of links action, but it certainly looked promising. There's a clean UI that sticks to the legacy formula; only a swing arc (similar to the one used in the 2K titles) differentiates it from previous games. The environment looked stunning, highlighting the work put into representing these world famous courses. We next saw some demonstrations of the shot mechanics. One of the players chose a 'pick' shot from an expansive but not intrusive pop-out menu, managing to use it to get out of a tricky bit of sand.

Interestingly, very little seems to have changed in the core systems. From drive to putt, this feels like an EA Sports PGA Tour title, with some slight tweaks to guidance lines and the aforementioned shot options. It seems the devs are playing it relatively safe for the franchise return.

Big hit moments are back, too. We witnessed a powerful drive given a cinematic fanfare that sent the ball careening through the air to roll smoothly onto the fairway. This was always a highlight of previous titles, as exhilarating to fans as a flashy background finish in Street Fighter. It's hard to gauge the feel of that shot unless you have a controller in hand, but there's something warmly familiar about the experience.

Career-wise, PGA Tour is boasting that it's the exclusive home of the majors. Players will create a golfer and start out in the amateur leagues, with an RPG-style progression system shaping your pro on the way to the tournament circuit. Your player can carry progression outside of the career mode and into all the usual match variations, on and offline.

Speaking of online, one potential caveat of this new title is its live service elements. Keeping real world activity up-to-date in the game could add to the immersion of the career mode, but these features are always worth a bit of trepidation.

In addition, the developers announced the classic 3-click swing as a post-launch release to go alongside the returning stick swing. Ostensibly not much of an issue, but post-launch content of any kind always leaves a bad taste, especially when it's something as fundamental as a control scheme. One final bogey is the confirmation that the game will be capped at 30 frames-per-second, which could be due to technical limitations, but stings nonetheless.

Those gripes aside, we're excited to see a developer with such a storied genre history get back in the game. Authenticity, variety of play, and presentation were the key focus of EA's presentation, and it's clearly been a labour of love bringing this franchise back. Let's hope that on 24th March, EA Sports can get this one on PS5 safely under par.

Thanks to EA Sports for inviting us to take an early look at the upcoming PGA Tour. Are you excited for the golf sim to be back with EA? Take a swing in the comments section below.